Weekly News Round-Up: April 13th, 2018

Weekly News Round-Up:  April 13th, 2018

Below please find this week's news round-up.

As noted last week, due to member feedback, we decided to postpone our Community Impact Investing Roundtable to June. We can now confirm it will be held on June 11th at The Boston Foundation. Registration is open here! (Please note that if you previously registered and did not email to confirm you can make the new date, your spot has been released and you will need to re-register, and at this time only asset owner seats are available.)

Have a great weekend,


Program Manager
The Intentional Endowments Network

Sustainable Investing at  Endowments, Foundations & Pensions

Elizabeth City State University Eyes Rules for 'Responsible' Investing l Daily Advance

  • Elizabeth City State University is considering adopting rules to govern how the university’s endowment funds are invested. The ECSU Board of Trustees agreed last week to take up the topic of “socially responsible investing” with the university’s investment managers at a future session. Josh Lassiter, ECSU’s vice chancellor for business and finance, said the topic of socially responsible investing came up during a recent meeting of university leaders within the University of North Carolina System.

Church Fund Endowment Goes 100% Fossil Fuel Free l Pensions & Investments

  • Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, Framingham, has moved its $10 million in endowment assets into the United Church Funds Beyond Fossil Fuels Balanced Fund. The Beyond Fossil Fuels Balanced Fund is a global equity fund that does not invest in any fossil fuel companies.

The European Asset Owners Aiming to Make an ‘Impact l Investments & Pensions Europe

  • The Luxembourg reserve fund and Unilever’s Dutch pension funds are among a number of European institutional asset owners that are either considering or explicitly preparing impact-related investment moves. In the Netherlands, the organization that manages Unilever’s two Dutch pension funds is looking to increase its allocation to impact investments to around 5% of the total portfolio over the next couple of years, according to Michael Kaal, the CIO.
 Opportunities for Action

US SIF Foundation Opens 2018 Survey on US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends l Digital Journal

  • US SIF Foundation announced today that the window for the 2018 Biennial Trends Survey is now open. The survey will provide data for the 2018 edition of its Trends report.  For reference, please see the 2016 report and this piece showing Highlights from Educational Institutions. To request a customized link to participate, contact the US SIF research team at trends@ussif.org. All survey responses are confidential. 

Proxy Season Sign-On Opportunities

New Reports & Resources 

Proxy Voting Guidelines 2018 l As You Sow

  • When shareholders demand real change, companies pay attention. If you’re an investor seeking to align your voting with your ESG principles, download Proxy Voting Guidelines 2018 today. You will find recommendations to help you vote your shareholder proxy ballot, covering critical issues such as climate change, environmental health, and executive compensation. The Guidelines are designed to be handed off to your investment advisor or proxy voting service, or you can use them to help you vote your own proxies.
Sustainable, Responsible, Impact & ESG Investing

Bloomberg Brief l Sustainable Finance

  • This week's Bloomberg Brief highlights how a record $9.36 billion of holdings in offshore wind farms were sold last year and investors want more; Activist investors have the power to get more women on boards, should they choose to use it; Yes, your chicken is on the blockchain; and a Q&A with Brandee McHale, president of the Citi Foundation, on Citigroup's sustainable financing efforts.

Women and Investing: New Business Strategies for Impact l Green Money Journal

  • The April 2018 issue of Green Money Journal is completely written by Women including Amy Domini of Domini Impact Investing, Kristin Hull of Nia Impact Capital, Julie Gorte of Pax World/Impax AM, Jane Carten of Saturna Capital, and Bonnie Foley-Wong of Pique Ventures. Also, see additional articles and a video on Women in Coffee from Equal Exchange.

Women Are Winning in Bond Funds. Why Aren’t There More of Them? l Bloomberg

  • Fixed-income mutual funds run by women have outperformed funds run by men since 2003, so you’d think the number of female managers would be rising. But the opposite is true: Only 14 U.S. debt funds were managed exclusively by women as of September 2017, compared with 47 in 2004, according to Morningstar Inc. And the share of women overseeing bond or equity assets has stalled at about one in 10 since 2015.

How to Use Neuroscience to Tackle Unconscious Bias l Personnel Today

  • Findings from a McKinsey Global Institute study (2015) revealed that a lack of gender diversity was associated with a greater likelihood of below-par performance in a sample of 366 companies in Canada, Latin America, the UK and the US. Testing for instinctive prejudices in the workplace is a controversial area. But an approach based on the functioning of the brain could help employees accept the need for it and defuse any resentment they may feel, writes neuroscientist and psychologist Dr Lynda Shaw.

ESG and Diversity Aren’t Buzzwords… They’re Good Business l Nasdaq

  • According to research conducted by a number of large consulting firms, companies with greater thought diversity outperform less diverse peers. As Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, admonished in his 2018 letter to shareholders, "[Diverse boards] are better able to identify opportunities that promote long-term growth." This article shares two concluding takeaways for officers and directors: (1) focus on ESG and boardroom thought diversity is not fleeting, and (2) shareholders can likely benefit from both.

Family Foundations Beginning to Shame Public Companies to Invest More in ESG Causes l Investment News

  • In March, Rockefeller & Co. transformed into Rockefeller Capital Management. New plans for the company include bulking up its asset management effort with socially responsible investing products. In a January report discussing the performance of its sustainability and impact analysts last year, the company said it voted 2,696 proxies and supported 46% of shareholder proposals, including two it co-filed. Among the steps it took to engage with companies it invested in, Rockefeller voted against an entire board slate for the first time because of "corporate responsibility shortcomings."
  • Sustainable funds had an opportunity to show off their lower-volatility character during a quarter in which the S&P 500 posted its first quarterly loss since the third quarter of 2015. Driven by the strong performance of the group’s core U.S. equity funds, one-third of sustainable funds finished in the top quartile of their Morningstar Categories and 55% finished in the top half.
Shareholder Engagement

The Proxy-Voting Season Kicks Off on Wall Street l The Economist

  • The annual meetings of America’s listed companies, usually held between February and June, have come to constitute “proxy season”. An analysis by Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), a proxy-advisory firm—which advises fund managers on how to vote on proposals—found that of the 459 shareholder proposals submitted by early April this year, many fell under just a few headings: transparency about political spending, climate change, racial and gender diversity, and pay.

Meet the Woman Who Convinced Apple, Starbucks, and Nike to Close Their Gender Pay Gaps l Fortune

  • Arjuna Capital managing partner Natasha Lamb (and Chair of the Crane Institute of Sustainability Board of Directors) has convinced 21 companies to commit to analyzing and closing their gender pay gaps. These include major players in tech (Apple, Intel, Microsoft), finance (J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Mastercard), and retail (Amazon, Nike, Starbucks). In honor of Equal Pay Day 2018, Fortune sat down with the activist investor to talk about how—and why—she engages with companies on the issue of pay equity. The interview below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

SEC Gives Exxon a Pass on Shareholder Climate Proposal, But Not Chevron l Climate Liability News

  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently responded to shareholder resolutions sent to Chevron and ExxonMobil requesting the oil companies disclose how they plan to align their business models with a low-carbon economy. While the SEC said Exxon could dismiss the proposal, it came to a different conclusion for Chevron, saying Chevron must submit it for consideration at its upcoming shareholder meeting. The SEC Division of Corporate Finance issued its response to Exxon in March, accepting the company’s argument that it has adequately disclosed steps it is taking to adapt to a low-carbon future. The SEC upheld two shareholder proposals submitted to Chevron. 

Unequal Voting and the Business Judgment Rule l Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation

  • This article discusses how company founders have been opting to shore up control by creating voting structures that undercut shareholder voting power, where only a decade ago almost all chose the standard and accepted one-share, one-vote structure. Now the Snap Inc. initial public offering has gone even further with the first-ever non-voting stock model. This stock ownership structure undercuts shareholder influence, undermines corporate governance, and will shift the burden of investment grievances to the courts.

The SEC is Blunting Investor Activism Over Climate, K-Cups and Gay Rights l The Washington Post

  • Shareholders are finding it more difficult to put their proposed proxy resolutions to votes as a result of new guidance issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC has widened the definition of “micromanaging” and business relevance, and on five occasions this year sided with companies that have refused to put proposals on shareholder proxy ballots.
Green Bonds

Quarterly Update: Fixed Income Investors Start to See Benefits of ESG Integration l PRI

  • Once the provenance of equities, ESG considerations have been moving slowly but steadily into fixed income.  With the global bond market totaling over USD 120 trillion, fixed income investors have a critical role to play in putting a price on risk drivers to protect the value of their clients’ and beneficiaries’ investments. We discussed the latest developments in assessing ESG incorporation in fixed income at our Responsible Investment in Fixed Income event in San Francisco – view the highlights here.
Ammunition and Weapon Divestment

BlackRock’s Gun-Free Funds Show Ethical Investing is a Good Bet l Financial Times

  • Americans fed up with gun violence now have the chance to speak with their purses. Last week, BlackRock, the world’s largest investment manager, said it was creating several options for investors who want to avoid AR-15 rifles and other civilian firearms. Gunmakers and most gun retailers will now be excluded from BlackRock’s broader socially responsible mutual funds and ETFs.

Tufts Faculty Joins Conversation on Gun Violence, Administration Must Be Next l Tufts Daily

  • The Tufts Arts, Sciences and Engineering (AS&E) faculty recently came together to call on the university to divest the school’s endowment from companies that produce, manufacture or distribute military-style assault weapons is a significant step in the right direction. According to a Daily article, the faculty came together in a 50–0–4 vote to urge the Board of Trustees and the Tufts administration to divest. The faculty vote added an important voice to the ongoing student conversation about how to stop gun violence.
Investment Manager News

Sunwealth Welcomes Jess Brooks as Chief Development Officer l Sunwealth

  • Sunwealth, the clean energy investment firm breaking down barriers to solar investment in underserved markets, announced this week that Jessica Brooks has joined the organization’s leadership team as Chief Development Officer. In this new role, she will partner with impact investors to bring new capital to diverse solar projects helping combat climate change.

Jupiter launches Global Sustainable Equities Fund l FTSE Global Markets

  • Asset management Jupiter launched the Jupiter Global Sustainable Equities Fund this week. The fund is a high conviction portfolio of around 35-50 stocks, looking to achieve capital growth over the long term by investing globally in a portfolio of high-quality companies which have sustainable businesses in economic, environmental and social terms. 

UBS Goes Green in Asia l FI News

  • UBS is launching a cross-asset portfolio in Asia based on sustainable investing. The Swiss wealth giant cites increasing Asian client demand for impact investment products as the impetus behind its new green portfolio, which follows a similar launch in Europe earlier this year. The portfolio invests in both active and passive funds with the minimum investment for clients in Asia set at $500,000. It has four equity classifications and three under the fixed income segment. 

Meet the VC Who Says Impact Investing Can Exceed Average Returns l Pitchbook

  • Impact investing has received a lot of column space of late, as well as a lot of committed capital. Recently, Switzerland’s Partners Group announced a $1 billion vehicle that will seek investments that help alleviate poverty and back companies developing affordable and clean energy technology.

Research Affiliates Bets ESG and Smart Beta Are Two Great Tastes That Go Great Together l Barron's

  • Smart beta is the industry term for portfolios created around stock characteristics like valuation, size, or momentum, known as “factors.” ESG investing requires its own factor analysis, only the factors it evaluates include environmental impact, workplace safety standards, and gender diversity. Research Affiliates launched the RAFI ESG indexes on Wednesday, marrying its fundamental index approach with ESG analysis. 
Climate Risk & Clean Energy

New York's Nor'easters Join List of 2018 $1 Billion Disasters